Irikefe woke up at 3:30 am. He hurried to the bathroom to have his bath and stood at the backyard and brushed his teeth. Normally he did that into the gutter at the frontage but considered that it was too early to be out there. He selected his only ripped jeans and denim jacket and trainers and was ready for the trip at 4 am. He had been told that because of the lockdown, transport fares had increased as people were being smuggled out of town like bales of okrika in lorries. For what he needed to do, Irikefe would go in the back of a trailer if he needed to. He was going to pay as high as fifteen thousand naira to get to Warri. Much of the sum would go into “settling” the police and task force officials on the way he was told. He had borrowed twenty thousand naira from Ndifreke, as he was sure that with the money from the sale of the land, he would have the fare for the return.
He was disappointed that the airspace remained closed. It would have been a good opportunity to fly in an aeroplane coming back. It was something he had dreamt of as a child. Well, there would be other opportunities, he reasoned. The first thing he would do after buying his Camry and giving Funbi the one million he promised her would be to take her to Dubai. Why not? Finding buyers for landed property in the south-south was easy. The boys made a lot of money from oil bunkering and were always on the lookout for the next available piece of property to acquire. All he needed to do was to put the word out. He was going to be a millionaire in only a matter of days.
He had dreamt of Funbi the whole night. He thought of calling or texting her before leaving but he decided against it. He did not want to talk to her anymore as a poor man. He just wanted to go and secure the bag so that the first words she would hear from him would be ‘send me your account details please’. He would emphasise the ‘please’ so that she would know that he was good-natured, that giving to her was like doing the Lord’s work, an obligation he lived to accomplish. He told the compound people and Ndifreke that he was going home to plan Papa Efe’s burial with the family. He would only wait around to formally inform the family of the death of their son. Then he would sell his land and return home to his Funbi.
Irikefe was out of the compound with a knapsack on his back before the first cock crowed on Katakata Street.
Castro did his best to stay in his sleeping position until daybreak. As soon as he heard his mother opening the door he flew out of the self contain to find Ndifreke in the main building.
He first knocked on Irikefe’s door and did not get any response as expected, before he proceeded upstairs to Ndifreke’s room.
“Good morning bros” Castro said when Ndifreke let him in.
“What is the matter this early morning?”
“Bros, you no hear wetin happen for night?”
“Mama Akunna’s ghost?”
“That new lawyer nearly kill hin sister with fuck! We no sleep.”
“Ah ahn Castro don’t be ridiculous.”
“I swear! You know say them room no far from our own. Everybody for back hear am. My mama and my papa and all my small brothers. I hear dem dey laugh. I sure say Mr. Cosmas also hear am!”
“But Jide is…” Ndifreke was not sure Irikefe had told Castro about Jide’s sexuality so he did not complete his sentence.
“Bros that Lawyer harsh o! Hin wife just travel and that same night hin shift hin sister womb! She just they shout fuck me Brother Jide! Nack me Brother Jide! I never see that kind thing for this compound before.”
“Something doesn’t add up,” Ndifreke said.
“Bros e add up. You no dey read news? People don dey nack their mama since na. Sister na small thing! Na for Angel Gabriel to blow the trumpet remain.”
“She is not his sister. But it is not just that. You won’t understand.”
“Bros I understand. Why I come meet you be say, I know say my homeboy dey die for this babe. I no fit see that kind thing close my eye. My guy need to know.”
“No. Don’t get involved. He just traveled this morning over his father’s death. It’s the last thing he needs to hear now.”
“I know. I reason am otherwise I for don call am. If I tell am now, him fit come down from that bus jump inside River Niger.”
“River Niger is not on the way to Warri Castro. Like I said, I’m not sure it’s in your place to tell him anything.”
“Bros I go tell am. I won’t close my eyes and watch that bitch fool my guy like that. My nigga gat to know. Kai.”
“Well, whatever. I doubt your story though.”
“Ask Mr. Cosmas.”
There was an early morning meeting of the Council of Elders which Ndifreke attended. Jide Falomo arrived late. As he stepped out of the corridor they heard Willy-willy and other children who had taken up a safe position away from the men hitting buckets and kegs with sticks and chanting “Brother Jide! Brother Jide!”
Mr. Zubi who understood what was happening removed his sandals and threw it in the direction of his son. “Get away from there! Ewu Gambia!”
He could not resist the smile that touched his lips as he did that. Mr. Cosmas smiled too.
Ndifreke pulled closer to Mr. Cosmas and said “Castro told me. Is it true?”
“Is what true?” Mr. Cosmas said.
“Mr. Cosmas na! You can’t even stop yourself from smiling!” Ndifreke said.
Mr. Cosmas’ smile turned into a grin.
“Castro came and told me there was some disturbance last night. I know about Jide so I had my doubts. He was sure you heard it too.”
“This is gossip my friend.”
“Mr. Cosmas o! This once, please. You know why I’m curious. I know about him. His wife just left for that reason. It’s confusing.”
“We shouldn’t be doing this but you are right, from where you are coming from it does pique a knowing one’s interest.”
“So you heard them? It happened?”
“I will say that with the auditory evidence I was privy to, some purely animal activity that may have spiritual significance took place between the two occupants of that room last night.”
“Chai Mr. Cosmas. If you agree that you heard them having sex, will you lose your place in the kingdom of heaven?”
“Whatever they do behind closed doors is not my or your business.”
“But if he did, and he never did it with his wife as reported, e get as e be.”
“The meeting is about to begin,” Mr. Cosmas said.
Sister Esther got up early and prepared for the hospital. But she decided to go and see the nurse before leaving.
Josephine heard the knock on her door and asked who it was before she let the person in.
“Sorry I don’t always go to people’s rooms,” Sister Esther said.
“I understand. I wanted to know who it was because I don’t want to wear pant.”
She had only her boyfriend t-shirt on. She was not wearing a bra too. She was so thick Sister Esther was envious. She often wondered what it would be like to have a body like that.
“I see why,” Sister Esther said and they both smiled and took the only chairs in the sparse but neat room.
“So you have made up your mind to start the antenatal?” Josephine said.
“Ideally you start the moment you discover you are pregnant. But we are used to our women going when they are conspicuously pregnant.”
“I will go today like I told you. Just that I woke up this morning and saw blood. I’m in my second trimester. Is it normal?”
“You have to see a doctor Sister Esther.”
“Should I be worried?”
“Ideally you should not be spotting blood in your second trimester. It may be indicative of a problem.”
“Blood of Jesus!”
“Yes Sister. Please see the doctor when you get to the clinic. I will suggest you do that before you register for the antenatal. First, we must eliminate any problems before the routine stuff.”
“What problems can there be nurse?”
Josephine heaved a sign and said, “Why not see the doctor and get examined first?”
“Tell me what it could be nurse. I am not afraid.”
“At this stage, it could either be due to cervical growths or placenta issues. But we don’t want to speculate.”
“It is the enemy. They don’t want me to have this baby. The fire of the holy ghost will burn them! I will have this baby and shame the devil in the mighty name of Jesus!”
“Amen. Please see the doctor. He will examine you and make recommendations.”
“Okay, Thank you nurse. I will go and will let you know the outcome when I get back.”
As they stood up they heard noises downstairs. People were running over enamel buckets and raising their voices. Something had happened again in number 225. Josephine went into the bedroom and put on a pair of jeans and a bra and followed Sister Esther out of the room.
Chisco stirred awake and jumped on his feet when he heard the sounds of shuffling feet from the corridor. It was morning already! Eyonyam was rocking the baby in her arms and their eyes met as soon as Chisco opened his. She gave him a smile that told him that he had lost.
“Day don break?” Chisco said.
“As you dey sleep like man wey no get work. How day no go break?” Eyonyam stood up from the chair. The baby squirmed. Chisco’s head dropped.
The lockdown had been sufficiently eased for him to return to his okrika apprenticeship. He had no further reason to lurk around his brother’s. He did not want Achike to ask him to leave before he did the right thing.
But how was it possible that he slept like that?
Chisco was beginning to feel uneasy about Eyonyam. She was evasive in a way that was not consistent with a woman that did not want sex. Unusual things happened around her. His brother became epileptic in her presence. He, a gifted vigilante that slept with only one eye closed got promised sex and then he fell asleep like he had drowned in palm wine! He who would rival mosquitoes in alertness when lesser women than Eyonyam were on his mind! Mba! Something was not right. But Chisco reasoned that he should not dwell on those. What he needed to do first was to fuck the woman. Looking at her rocking the baby and her bottom bouncing like Christmas balloons strengthened his resolve. After that, he would worry about her strange ways. He would find a way to do it. Ogbu Agu would find a way!
He left the room in a hurry because he did not want Achike to meet him there. He was surprised to find that Achike was already outside meeting with the men of the compound.
What had happened to him?
“See the way America and the rest of the world are protesting! See them all out on the streets for almost two weeks now. But if it were in Nigeria, some people will make noise on Facebook for two days and we will continue like nothing happened until it happens to another person!” Achike was saying.
“At the same time that happened, a policeman shot and killed a girl at Iyana-oworo. What has happened? Our celebrities went to Twitter and Instagram to rant. Meanwhile, we are seeing top actors and actresses in the US leading the protests on foot!” Josiah said.
“Those ones understand that if it happens to one person it could happen to another! Here in Nigeria, we all believe we and our families are covered with the blood of Jesus until it happens to us. So everybody pays lips service and look the other way.”
“Tinubu carried a placard in his garden demanding for justice for the murdered girls. That is a good start.”
“Tueh!” Josiah scoffed.
“But really, American people get time sha. For thirteen days now no work no business, only protests! Wetin dem go chop?”
“Their government already paid them $1200 each as corona palliative. The same government and Insurance will be there to absorb the effects of the lost businesses and employment at the end of the whole thing. But here, after they finish shooting you with live bullets, they will take the survivors into custody and make you sell your inheritance to regain your freedom. Don’t blame us when we leave everything to God.”
“But wait o, since all this start, we no dey hear of coronavirus again. Abi the virus follow dey protest?”
“This just goes to show that it was mainly a media jamboree. It was something for them to feed on. They milked everything out of the coronavirus stories until the next big thing happened. The good thing now is that if there really is coronavirus, the sick can now concentrate on being sick without the media frightening them to avoidable death through sensational reporting.”
“If you doubt that there is coronavirus in Nigeria, don’t doubt that it is in oyinbo land. They really are dying.”
“They should come and take our agbo. I have said it before.”
“Eh hen, your caretaker sent a message this morning that he is travelling to Warri. Say what you like about that boy but it seems like he is getting responsible. He has taken it upon himself to travel to his people despite the lockdown to arrange for his father’s burial. Whoever thought the rascal would grow up?” Mr Zubi said.
“Well, responsibility makes you responsible, isn’t it? Meanwhile, I hope you have found the solution to the ghosts? Because his responsibleness has come with bad mouth. I am still waiting for him to enter my trap.” Josiah said.
“My wife knows what to do about the ghosts. Meanwhile, since the night of the shooting, we have not heard anything. It is only last night we heard something,” Mr Zubi said with a smile. Those of us who live at the back were treated to sounds our children did not need to hear.” Turning to Jide he said “Oga lawyer, eku se o! But that is not how we do it here. We know someone is always listening even when we are praying. So you and aunty should close your mouths the next time. We have produced over one hundred babies in this compound doing it that way.”
Jide bowed his head and smiled. He could see the admiration in the eyes of the men. It was a good feeling for ones sexual activity to be enjoyed even by non-participants. If he was with a man, he did not need that advice because he knew by rote to do his thing in silence like a criminal. Now, he did not only enjoy himself, others enjoyed it too even when they could have been offended. If that was not harmony, he wondered what was.
“Alright sirs. I am sorry if I caused any offence.”
“Apologise to the single people like Cosmas,” Mr. Zubi said. “And speaking of which, Cosmas, when are you going to bring your girlfriend?”
“In the fullness of time,” Mr. Cosmas said and they all laughed.
“But there is one thing that bothers me Mr. Jide which we must address because we live here as a family. Yesterday we saw your wife leaving in a taxi. Her body language suggests she will not be back in a hurry. You also told us that the girl living with you was your sister. What is going on?”
Jide looked at Mr. Cosmas. Mr. Cosmas nodded at him before he spoke.
“My wife left me. It is complicated but Mr. Cosmas here knows why. I chose not to explain because it is deeply personal. You will all understand if I did. But the girl living with me is not my sister. It suited my wife for people to believe that she was my sister.”
Mr. Zubi held up his hands and said “That is fine. If you say Cosmas is in the know then I am happy. We trust him. But still, tell aunty to keep the volume down.”
They all laughed again and looked up when a white truck pulled up in front of the compound. They watched as the same two officers that had helped Inspector Akpan offload his things a fortnight before throw a letter signed by the Inspector at them before matching into the compound and straight to his room and started removing his things. They promised to break the head of anyone that came close with their batons, so compound members stood aside and watched them pack.
When they finished packing, one of the men asked after Jide Falomo.
Jide did not feel good about the whole thing. There was a tightness in his stomach he only felt when there was impending danger. So all the time the men were busy packing, he stayed alert for anything that may happen. So as soon as he heard his name, he bailed into the corridor. The officers chased after him. He got to his room and wanted to enter when he heard someone say “Don’t enter! Don’t enter!”
Good advice. The officers would have broken down the door to get him. So he sped past his room through to the backyard and went round the compound and returned to the frontage from where he hit the street and ran as fast as his legs could carry him to safety. The officers that gave chase gave up when they found themselves back at the frontage. They entered the truck that brought them and left.
Compound members stood in the corridor and deliberated.
“What is this one again now ehn? What did that quiet man do?”
“He must have done something that is why he ran. They will come back for him.”
“If he ran, then that was the right thing for him. He is a lawyer. He would know when grammar will not help him.”
“When he comes back he will have to tell us why he ran. You know Nigerian police. Before they will come and arrest my children for what I know nothing about.”
Chisco caught sight of Josephine who had just arrived with Sister Esther. Josephine’s eyes fell on Chisco and she gave him the once over, hugged Sister Esther and marched away. Sister Esther also left the scene and the compound after Josephine.
In the confusion, Eyonyam stole into Mr. Kingsley’s room and waited there for him.
Mr. Kingsley opened the door and she was standing there. His eyes widened as he wore a big grin. He saw that she had untied her wrapper from her chest and tied it loosely over her hips. Her white t-shirt was diaphanous so the shape of her breasts and erect nipples were clear in his view. Her waist was covered in layers of multicoloured beads. She smiled and he felt like his heart was going to stop.
In perfect English, she said, “Give me your best quote.”
“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise…Ashley Montagu,” Mr. Kingsley said and lunged at her. She chuckled and turned her back so he held her from behind as her wrapper fell to the floor. He squatted and buried his face in between the cheeks of her ample bottom and rocked his head from side to side making a wild ‘brrr’ sound as she chortled in pleasure and amusement. There wasn’t a better place to start with this woman he thought.
TO BE CONTINUED.